Johan Ackermann believes the Lions need to play smarter rugby if they're to make off with a victory in North Harbour on Friday. BRENTON CHELIN reports.
Three weeks into the new season and the Lions have yet to pick up a positive result. The performances haven't been all bad, but as the Cheetahs proved against the Blues last weekend, it's the result that matters, not the performance.
Ackermann's side start their four-week tour at North Harbour Stadium on Friday against a Blues team also searching for their first victory of the season. The Blues have had some misfortune of their own, and felt hard done-by after Joe Pietersen's debatable late penalty in Bloemfontein.
The Blues, like the Lions had done against the Hurricanes in the opening round, dominated possession and territory, but failed to make it count. Ackermann has taken some lessons out of both matches, and will be looking for his side to utilise them on Friday.
'We saw that the Blues will give you opportunities if you are taking them on tactically, and show enough patience,' Ackermann told SARugbymag.co.za.
'We've got a bit of a different plan in place [than the Cheetahs]. One or two of the Cheetahs kicks were 50/50 and they went in their favour. So we need to make sure that when we kick, we do it smartly and it's either for territory or gives us a good opportunity to regather. Our decision-makers need to get those aspects right.'
With a greater focus on the tactical battle, Ackermann has brought in Ross Cronjé at scrumhalf, with Faf de Klerk dropping to the bench. He believes both players will have a key role to play as the Lions seek their first away win against the Blues since 2001.
'It's a bit of a tactical switch. Ross is the steady one and is defensively sound, therefore we thought that for this specific week he'll be a good fit. We're also going to need a bit more energy in the second half, so we'll be looking for Faf to change the tempo of the game when he comes on.'
In Ihaia West, the Blues have the most accurate goal-kicker in the competition so far. Ackermann is well aware of the threat posed by the 23-year-old and has called for a disciplined performance from his charges, especially in their own half.
'It's not the amount of penalties, but the area of penalties that are the problem. If you think of the points the teams have scored against us, we haven't been giving away a lot of penalties, but we're always giving away penalties inside our 10m line and then it's three points, or they're kicking it into the corners and putting us under pressure.
'We've seen that the Blues like to make things physical, but we need to maintain our discipline for the full 80 minutes.'
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